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Yemen rebels: Airstrike kills 70 people at prison

by JON GAMBRELL AND MAAD AL-ZIKRY THE ASSOCIATED PRES | January 22, 2022 at 3:53 a.m.
This photo provided by Ansar Allah Media Office, a man is rescued early Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a site in the contested city of Hodeida, Yemen. A Saudi-led airstrike targeting a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels killed and wounded detainees on Friday, rescuers said, part of a pounding aerial offensive that hours earlier saw another airstrike take the Arab world's poorest country off the internet. (Ansar Allah Media Office via AP)

SANAA, Yemen -- A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels Friday, killing at least 70 detainees and wounding dozens, a rebel minister said. The strike was part of a pounding aerial offensive that hours earlier knocked the Arab world's poorest country off the internet.

The intense campaign comes after the Iran-backed Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack that struck the United Arab Emirates' capital earlier in the week -- a major escalation in the conflict in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition, backed by the UAE, has battled the rebels since 2015.

Taha al-Motawakel, health minister in the Houthi government that controls northern Yemen, said 70 detainees were killed at the prison and that he expects the number to rise.

"The world cannot be quiet when faced with these crimes," Al-Motawakel said, urging international aid organizations to send medical staff and aid.

He said medical workers in Yemen, already operating with scarce resources during the pandemic, have been exhausted by the influx of injured.

Earlier Friday, a Saudi airstrike in the port city of Hodeida -- later confirmed by satellite photos analyzed by the AP -- hit a telecommunication center that's key to Yemen's connection to the internet. Airstrikes also hit near the capital, Sanaa, held by the Houthis since late 2014.

The escalation was the most intense since the 2018 fighting for Hodeida and comes after a year of U.S. and U.N. efforts failed to bring the two sides to the negotiating table.

Basheer Omar, an International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson in Yemen, said rescuers continued searching for survivors in the rebel-run prison in the northern city of Saada. The Red Cross had moved some of the wounded to facilities elsewhere, he said.




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Doctors Without Borders put the number of wounded alone at "around 200." Ahmed Mahat, the group's head of mission in Yemen, said it had reports of "many bodies still at the scene of the airstrike, many missing people."

Save the Children said the Saada prison holds detained migrants.

"Migrants seeking better lives for themselves and their families, Yemeni civilians injured by the dozens, is a picture we never hoped to wake up to in Yemen," said Gillian Moyes, the group's director in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition did not confirm the Saada attack. It has frequently struck civilian locations during the war, now in its eighth year. It was unclear if the detention facility was the intended target.

As for the airstrike in Hodeida, NetBlocks said the nationwide internet disruption began about 1 a.m. local time and affected TeleYemen, the state-owned monopoly that controls internet access in the country. TeleYemen is now run by the Houthis, who have held Sanaa since late 2014.

More than 18 hours later, the internet remained down.

The Houthi's Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the strike on the telecommunications building killed and wounded an unspecified number of people. It released chaotic footage of people digging through rubble for a body as aid workers assisted bloodied survivors.

Save the Children said the Hodeida strike killed at least three children playing on a soccer field. Satellite photos analyzed by the AP corresponded to photos shared on social media of the telecommunications building flattened.

The Saudi-led coalition acknowledged carrying out "accurate airstrikes to destroy the capabilities of the militia" around Hodeida's port. It didn't immediately confirm striking a telecommunications target, but called Hodeida a hub for piracy and Iranian arms smuggling to back the Houthis.

Iran has denied arming the Houthis, though U.N. experts, independent analysts and Western nations point to evidence showing Tehran's link to the weapons.

On Friday, Houthi supporters rallied, calling the airstrikes "an American escalation." The Houthis commonly equate the Saudi-led coalition with the United States, condemning America in fiery terms.

The war reached into the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, on Monday, when the Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six. Although the UAE has largely withdrawn its forces from the conflict, it remains heavily involved and supports local militias on the ground in Yemen.

Information for this article was contributed by Edith M. Lederer of The Associated Press.

  photo  Map locates two Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. One striking a prison in the northwest city of Saada and the other in the western port city of Hodeidah, where a telecommunications hub was struck, crippling the country’s internet access
 
 
  photo  This photo provided by Ansar Allah Media Office, a man is rescued early Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a site in the contested city of Hodeida, Yemen. A Saudi-led airstrike targeting a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels killed and wounded detainees on Friday, rescuers said, part of a pounding aerial offensive that hours earlier saw another airstrike take the Arab world's poorest country off the internet. (Ansar Allah Media Office via AP)
 
 
  photo  This photo provided by Ansar Allah Media Office, a man is rescued early Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a site in the contested city of Hodeida, Yemen. A Saudi-led airstrike targeting a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels killed and wounded detainees on Friday, rescuers said, part of a pounding aerial offensive that hours earlier saw another airstrike take the Arab world's poorest country off the internet. (Ansar Allah Media Office via AP)
 
 
  photo  This photo provided by Ansar Allah Media Office, a man is rescued early Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a site in the contested city of Hodeida, Yemen. A Saudi-led airstrike targeting a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels killed and wounded detainees on Friday, rescuers said, part of a pounding aerial offensive that hours earlier saw another airstrike take the Arab world's poorest country off the internet. (Ansar Allah Media Office via AP)
 
 

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